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Pricing taken from Newegg.com 2/24/09
MOTHERBOARD - ECS Geforce6100PM-M2 AM2+/AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 6100 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - $44.99
HARD DRIVE - Western Digital Caviar SE WD3200AAJS 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - $49.99
DVD BURNER - LG 22X DVD±R DVD Burner Black SATA - $24.99
TOTAL BUILD COST - $292.93
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Though a little more expensive than your generic polymer and alluminum case, this Cooler Master case has a reputation for being extremely high quality. It is much sturdier than a plastic case, and features foam filters over vents to avoid any damage to components due to dust build-up.
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The Power Supply
Receiving the best possible consumer reviews for a Power Supply in its class, as well as offering an incredibly low price made this one an obvious choice. An advanced builder may notice the lack of extra SATA connectors, as they are less common in "lower end" computers. It features the 20+4 pin main connector design for maximum compatibility as well as a PCI-e 6-pin connector in case you ever want to add a higher end video card.
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We kept it to 2GB of the low cost DDR2 800 RAM. It will run any productivity software you could possibly need just fine, but if you find yourself using your computer for photo editing or other memory intensive programs you may want to double that amount for only roughly $20 more. You'll have to purchase 2 2GB sticks instead of 2 1GB sticks.
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I opted for an AMD motherboard from a reputable company both for its low cost but also for its higher spec'd integrated video. For basic home and office productivity you really do not need a dedicated Video card, but having a decently on-board solution is perfect. The board also features a PCI-e x16 slot if you ever decide to get into gaming and add a video card. This on-board video probably won't be able to run modern games at very good quality, so if you have intentions of doing any amount of gaming on this system you'll want to look into buying a dedicated video card, like this one for $80. You'll be able to plug in all your devices because this board also includes 6 USB ports. How could you go wrong?
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The Athlon 64 x2 is truly a high quality processor that finds itself wearing a lower price tag because it is being rapidly replaced by quad core CPUs. However, at this point in time, there are few advantages being offered by quad-core CPUs, particularly in simple office software. Why spend money on something you won't need or use when you can get this high quality CPU for a fraction of the cost?
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The Hard Drive
Western Digital hard drives are praised for their well established reliability. Their 320 GB model that we included in this build is no exeption, receiving the highest possible consumer reviews. It even uses the higher speed SATA3 connection for faster loading, file transfers, and installs. 320 GB is a lot of storage, but if you have a lot of movies or music that you want to store on it you might find that it isn't enough space. If this is the case you can upgrade to the 500GB version for $15 more.
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These days you can't get by without the ability to watch DVDs on your computer, as well as the ability to make your own DVDs. Fortunately, this technology has become extremely inexpensive. You won't be able to copy DVDs one to another directly because you'll only have one, but with some basic software you can make copies of your most precious DVDs. If you want two, a second one will only run you another $25, but you'll have to find a SATA power adapter because our power supply won't have an extra one to spare. These can be picked up for just a few dollars.
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A Decent Computer for Under $300
It isn't breaking any records, but you can do school work, office work, check email, surf the web, and perform other day-to-day taks well without breaking the bank. And by using these carefully chosen parts, there are plenty of opportunities to upgrade if you want to do more, instead of needing a whole new PC.